TO was taken to a side room off the lab. It was still brighter than TO was used to, but the light was red and somehow that made it easier on their eyes. The walls were lined with tanks much like the larger chamber was, but the tanks were much smaller and TO could see a strange, semi-translucent substance that lined the inside of each one. In the closer tanks TO could see small masses floating in the strange liquid that filled it.
“Artificial wombs.” PQ03 said, gesturing to the tank closest to them. “Each one can sustain up to 50 embroys for the first half of their primary incubation. After that, they need more specialized attention, and the viable ones are transferred to their own tank out in the main incubation center."
TO slowed and tried to get a closer look at the masses floating before them. They didn’t realize they had stopped moving altogether until PQ03 cleared their throat. TO looked away from the tank and saw the officer standing before them with the hands resting on their hips.
“So sorry, Officer.” TO said as their ears flicked down.
“It is not a problem.” they said. They took a step forward, “You want a closer look, yes?”
“Yes, please.” TO said. They were trying to restrain their excitement, but it was very difficult. They had little knowledge about how synths were actually made, and the chance to see what they themselves might have looked like at such an early stage was intensely fascinating to them. They couldn't help the frantic twitch to their ears, and they just hoped that PQ03 wouldn’t be bothered by their excitement.
To their surprise, PQ03 nearly smiled, “Good.” they said, “It’s good to see another synth show proper appreciation for the work we do here.” They stepped up to the tank and reached down to press a button just underneath a box that was stuck to the back of the tank. “We have a method to examine the embryos for short periods of time so that we can ensure they’re all healthy, and to limit wasted resources on non-viable ones.
The lights in the room went out and the tanks were instantly illuminated by bright red light. Now TO was able to clearly see the fetuses despite the film on the inside of the tank. They didn’t look like anything that TO was used to seeing, or anything that TO would have considered to be a synth. They almost looked like bugs with tiny, translucent wings wrapped firmly around their bodies. A long cord ran from their stomachs to a strange mass that was stuck to the film on the edge of the tank. With the lights on, TO could see tiny veins trailing across the film; growing denser and larger around the masses. Their eyes seemed to take up the entirety of their heart shaped heads, and TO could easily see the big black round orbs visible through the translucent skin. They didn’t even have ears, not really; they just had tiny little bulges starting to form on the sides of the head
“It’s very interesting to think that they will become proper synths one day, isn’t it?" PQ03 said as they approached to look as well. “Well, most of them, we hope. It’s a little early yet to check for any deformities that might occur.”
PQ03 frowned, their ears dipping in shame, “As much as we try,“ they said, “We cannot always bring King Decon’s creations to their full potential. Sometimes we fail, and deformities happen. Sometimes the fetuses simply do not grow. Still, King Decon is merciful. He knows that we are limited when compared to his own skills.”
TO pulled their eyes away from the tank, “Are they created here?” They asked, “The embryos?”
PQ03 almost looked shocked at the question, their ears perking up in surprise, “Oh no. Not at all!” they said, “No, Each one is created by King Decon himself from base proteins and–“
“How does he do it?”
PQ03 gave TO a long hard look, and TO felt their ears sink down in shame and embarrassment once more. They hadn’t been thinking, they had honestly gotten very excited in seeing this. They had so many questions as to how they were created, how a synth was made.
They wanted to know. They wanted to know how it was all done. It hadn’t occurred to them that perhaps asking about it was a step too far.
“I admire your curiosity.” PQ03 finally said as they turned the main lights back on leaving the embryos obscured once more, “But that is information that is highly protected.” They started walking deeper into the lab, “To be able to create life from nothing more than basic proteins.” They shook their head, “Even if it was something we could possibly comprehend, that information must be protected. Imagine if that information was released, if someone was able to replicate King Decon’s technique. In baser, less worthy hands, that would be a tragedy. No no, that information is best kept in the mind of King Decon himself.”
TO kept silent, but they desperately wanted to know how it was done. They had done some basic research on bioengineering but they had no idea how King Decon could simply create life like that! Even though they might not know all the details, there had to be more information on it!
They caught up to PQ12, who was standing next to a tank that didn't seem to have any embryos floating in it; TO could only see the masses stuck to the inside. PQ12 had opened what looked like a control panel behind the tank, and pulled out clear tube that seemed to be cycling liquid through a small machine
“This device helps to ensure that the embryos have what they need; oxygen and the like. It makes sure the tanks are kept at the perfect temperature, and alerts us if there’s too little or too much of any particular nutrient.” They gestured to the syringe that PQ12 was holding, “This is a formula of essential nutrients to facilitate the growth of the fetuses. It’s specially formulated and enriched with antibodies to help protect the synth from various diseases they might encounter in their lifetime”
PQ12 held a port that was connected to the tube in one hand, and set the syringe into the opening, the needle plunging through a strange jelly-like cap. Slowly, they released the orange liquid into the tube, which suddenly turned a dull, muddy color. TO watched as it was pulled through the tube, but was surprised when the liquid in the tank didn’t turn color.
“You won’t see anything.” PQ12 said, “This won’t go into the tank itself.” They pointed to one of the masses on the edge, “It gets filtered through the artificial womb, into the synthetic blood, and to the placentas; that’s the masses you see on the edge here.” They leaned forward with their hand against the glass, looking carefully at the closest such mass, “We won’t be able to see much from these for several periods yet, but this particular center has an 85% success rate for viable fetuses after the first quarter of gestation." They looked back to TO, “We consider it a success if we can manage to bring 60% to full term. After that, we have a 98% success rate for maintaining synths until they’re fully grown and ready to leave the tank and begin service.”
“Why is it so much–“ TO stopped themselves, their ears flicking down, “Apologies, nevermind.”
“No, go on.” PQ12 said, “Your interest in this is encouraging, and it is refreshing to see one who wishes to learn.”
Was this normal? TO looked up at the two officers. They weren’t sure if this was normal or not, and they wondered if the officers were also strange. Maybe they were just very interested in their work. Whatever the case was, TO felt suddenly torn between knowing that they should stay quiet and wanting to ask questions, wanting the information.
“Why is the success rate so much lower so much earlier on?” They asked as curiousity won the battle in their mind.
“We try to weed out non-viable synths as early as possible.” PQ03 said, “TO avoid wasting resources on them. That’s why they’re kept in here at the start - so we can keep a closer eye on them.” They peered in, trying to see something in the masses, “At this stage, they’re embryos. It’s not until later – basically when all the major organs are properly developed– that they’d be considered fetuses like the ones you saw when you first came in. We lose a lot between this primary development stage and the point where they’re considered fetus.” They moved from the tank, and turned away. “We would like it to be higher, but we do what we can.”
PQ12 came up to them, holding out a tray with another syringe filled with the same orange liquid inside.
“Were you watching what I did?” They asked.
“Good. You will do the next one. I will observe.”
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell